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Summer Camp with a Cooperative Twist

Summer Camp is not just a luxury available to wealthy suburban families. For more than 70 years, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union has offered a camp program that’s affordable, educational, and fun. The RMFU Cooperative Leadership Camps are held at the beginning of June in Bailey, Colorado, at the National Farmers Union Educational Center. RMFU campers have been developing self-confidence and leadership skills in the beautiful Bailey setting for three generations, and most of the counselors (and even some of the senior staff) are camp veterans.

Each year the camp curriculum covers a topic important to rural families. The campers come from all over the state, from inner city and ‘burbs to little towns on the prairie. Urban kids learn about how rural life contributes to our nation’s food and energy security. Rural kids gain a better understanding of their heritage and how they can contribute to the sustainability of American agriculture and rural values. Everybody picks up some skills, sees how “the other half lives,” and comes away with new friends.

In addition to hiking, field trips, singing and dancing – the usual fare at summer camp – campers participate in cooperative games, team-building activities, and leadership workshops, and they even stock and run their own cooperative store.

This year’s theme, Cooperative Passport: Your Destination for Fun, is based on the United Nation’s declaration  of 2012 as International Year of Cooperatives.  At camp, participants actually run their own coop store.  They elect a board of directors, set the price of the goods, sell shares, and at the end of camp, they present the members with their patronage dividends.  It is a practical, educational way to show youngsters how a cooperative works.  Camp director Jennifer Luitjens Bahr says, “We have some surprising innovations in this year’s co-op store. Instilling cooperative values at a young age ensures that our next generation of leaders are getting ready to lead!”

RMFU coordinates transportation to and from Bailey and raises “campership” money to help with financial needs. But RMFU Summer Camp is remarkably affordable at around $50 a day for a four- or five-day camp experience. The camp schedule is June 3-6 for kids who have completed grades 2-4, June 7-11 for those who have completed grades 5-7, and June 11-15 for Senior Camp (completed grades 8-12). “Summer camp is our way to give back to the grassroots communities that RMFU was built on,” said RMFU Foundation Director Ben Rainbolt. “Our young people are tomorrow’s leaders, and we want to make sure they are prepared to serve their country and community.”

For more information on RMFU Summer Camps, visit www.rmfu.org/education/ or call 303.752.5800.

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